Texas Heart Institute Selected for NIH Stem Cell Study Consortium

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The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital is one of five centers selected by the National Institutes of Health to study stem cell treatments for patients with cardiovascular disease. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will provide a grant of $33.7 million over the next five years to support the new national consortium called the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN). The network represents the first U.S. federal funding for adult stem cell studies in which patients are treated with stem cells taken from their own bodies.

"Selection into the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network further affirms the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's role as a world leader in adult stem cell research. This grant provides much-needed support to accelerate research through multiple, collaborative Phase I and II clinical trials that study safety and efficacy. This emerging field of medicine holds great promise and we are eager to add to new knowledge which translates into effective new treatments for cardiovascular disease," said James T. Willerson, M.D., president-elect and medical director of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's, and Principal Investigator of the CCTRN studies here. Dr. Willerson is also president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

"Of course I'm pleased that, just down the street, the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston has been selected as the data coordinating center for the entire network. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will supply a core cell processing center and additional resources, further broadening the collaboration among Texas Medical Center institutions," said Dr. Willerson. "The UT Health Science Center is also a collaborating partner."

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Other centers in the CCTRN are the Cleveland Clinic, University of Florida at Gainesville, Minnesota Heart Institute and Vanderbilt University.

"The focus in this first year will be developing the protocols for studies which will be conducted at all five sites. We will be looking at treating a variety of cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure. We will also explore the potential of stem cells taken from different sites in the body, including the bone marrow, circulating blood and adipose (fat) or muscle tissue. New techniques to process and deliver the stem cells in the body will be studied as well," said Emerson Perin, M.D., Ph.D., Director of New Interventional Cardiovascular Technology and Director of the Stem Cell Center at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's. Dr. Perin is Co-Principal Investigator for the research to be conducted here.

The Stem Cell Center of Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's was first in the U.S. to receive FDA approval for an adult stem cell clinical trial to treat patients with advanced heart failure. That study recently enrolled its 30th and final patient. Monitoring and follow-up of patients continues and Stem Cell Center physicians hope to publish their results by the end of the year.

Cardiovascular disease remains the nation's leading cause of death, claiming nearly 900,000 lives each year and more lives than the next five leading causes of death combined. One in three Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease and associated costs are estimated at $432 billion in 2007.

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